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Maitland City Council

Introduction

Maitland is a medium sized city with a population of 60,000, situated in the lower Hunter Valley region of NSW. The city is about a two hour drive North of Sydney and 15 minutes inland of Newcastle. The City of Maitland was incorporated in 1945 as an amalgamation of three local government areas. Frequently subject to flooding by the Hunter River, Maitland has undertaken considerable flood mitigation work.

Prior to its purchase of Infocouncil, Maitland City Council was using an alternative proprietary software product to manage reports, agendas and minutes, deciding to make the transition to Infocouncil in May 2008. We conducted a before-and-after survey with Maitland in November 2009, and Nicole Kelly, Team Leader Information Services, kindly completed it for us.

Before and after Infocouncil

Reports

Although the issue does not directly affect Council management, most systems for managing agendas and minutes rely on MS Word styles and formatting. These frequently clash, leading to much loss of time in sorting things out. Nicole Kelly notes "as Infocouncil is not based on styles there is less chance of errors in report writing." It is also "easier to insert hard copy and electronic attachments."

For converting from open to confidential, Nicole says "now with Infocouncil it is a simple matter of opening the report and then choosing the appropriate reason for moving into the confidential session of council. To take out of confidential is also a simple procedure."

Agendas

That Infocouncil reports are free from the impact of MS Word styles has a beneficial flow-on effect for agenda compilation. Nicole finds it to be a "simple process to compile an agenda (with) no need to worry about headers and footers and continuation pages." It is also "easy to add a late report and compile a supplementary agenda which then automatically forms part of the minutes document. In this way the report has no way of being missed." It is "easier to change the order of reports whereas in the old system it was necessary to rename the file syntax." The procedure for filing is also much improved; ”in the old system we had to manually create the archive folders and then relocate the files for archiving. There are no such problems with Infocouncil."

Minutes

When compiling minutes with Infocouncil, the Administrator simply changes the hot button from 'agenda' to 'minutes' and clicks 'create document'. Nicole observes "many procedures were involved in compiling the minutes which involved reformatting and manual entering of information in the old system. In Infocouncil there is less manual reformatting as the system automatically generates the template without error."

With Infocouncil, minutes are taken in real time if the Minutes Secretary chooses to do so, because "at the meeting the items are resolved as they are raised using simple drop down boxes." Nicole continues "in the old system the only way this could be achieved would be to compile a minutes document and then resolve the items and then at the meeting changes would have to be made to the resolutions which was not a very effective or efficient way to prepare or take the minutes and caused confusion." None of this is necessary with Infocouncil.

As to ease of moving between, for example, procedural motions, recording divisions, handling multiple resolutions, etc, this has become …"much easier and quicker because Infocouncil relies on menu driven toolbars and drop-down boxes that can be quickly and easily ticked in the meeting."

Rating

Here are Nicole Kelly's overall ratings of the two systems:
Previous system: 3
Infocouncil: 8